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Stanford University School of Medicine

Ketamine: Fresh hope for the treatment of OCD

This 1:2:1 podcast features a conversation with psychiatrist Carolyn Rodriguez on the use of ketamine to treat OCD.

Will ketamine, the new hope for the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and other severe mental illnesses, live up to it's promise?  For my latest 1:2:1 podcast, I spoke with Stanford psychiatrist Carolyn Rodriguez, MD, PhD, about her research using the drug with OCD patients. Rodriguez conducted the first test of ketamine in an individual suffering from severe OCD in 2010 while at Columbia University. She told me that twenty minutes into the infusion, her patient felt a remarkable "lifting" of their mental illness.

Ketamine, known on the street as the illicit hallucinogenic party drug, Special K, has a serious use; it's approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an anesthetic. Last month, my colleague Tracie Write wrote about its history of use for psychiatric illnesses:

Beginning more than a decade ago with a study funded by the National Institutes of Health that showed ketamine infusions infusions inducing dramatic improvements in treatment-resistant depression, ketamine research has burst into the field of psychiatry, spurring studies like Rodriquez's that have shown success in treating OCD, bipolar disorder and post-tramuatic stress disorder.

Rodriguez told me the current go-to treatments for OCD -- serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac and/or cognitive behavioral therapy -- are still essential tools for treating this mental illness, but more treatment options are needed. "Current treatments can take months to have any effect on the disease," she said, "if they work at all."

Now recruiting patients for a new clinical trial, Rodriguez is hopeful that a growing body of science will solidify this drug as a treatment option and bring relief to millions of people who suffer from the life-altering OCD.

Previously: Stanford researcher explores use of ketamine to treat severe mental illness
Photo by Paul Sakuma

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